In the far western Brooks Range near the Chukchi Coast is a colorful and remote wilderness deep in the Baird Mountains. Aqua colored creeks carve limestone canyons through the rocky ridges. The country is stunning. Flowers carpet the green tundra and bring spots of purple and blue to the talus slopes. Golden Eagles soar in the brilliant sky searching the mountains for prey. Wolves wander the ridge tops hoping to find caribou migrating north. This trip puts you right in the middle of it all.
Here in the Noatak National Preserve there is ample solitude and room to roam. The only trails in the area are those made by passing caribou. There are no campgrounds, no other hikers, and probably not even any footprints on our route through the mountains. We trade the noise of civilization for 24 hour daylight, long vistas, quiet canyons, and the possibility of wildlife around every corner.
The Baird Mountains lie between the Noatak and Kobuk rivers and are nearly unexplored by backpackers. Join us on this new route and discover the beauty of an Alaska Backpacking trip this summer.
We’ll travel just over 30 miles in eight days. The route is an easy one in terms of elevation gain and the terrain covered, but there will be some long days and we’ll need to cross creeks and potentially even snow from time to time.
Starting high on a mesa -like ridge near the crest of the range our route winds westward crossing several small passes and ultimately ending in the headwaters of the Agashashok (“Agi”) River. The walking is pretty good, though the rocks are loose underfoot in places.There are limestone canyons to negotiate, and rivers to ford. In return for the hard work of Alaska backpacking, we enjoy rugged colorful peaks, soft green valleys, and (if lucky) abundant wildlife.
Hiking in the arctic is an “off-trail” experience, so a six-mile day can take as long and be as taxing as ten miles in other parts of the world. Experience backpacking is recommended for this trip, but novices in good shape, who are willing to do some training, would enjoy the trip too. Each hiker will carry 15-20 pounds of food and community gear in addition to personal gear; due to the small group size and the trip’s duration, expect to start the trip with a pack weighing no less than 45 pounds.
Last updated: December 22, 2020
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting in Kotzebue.
Fly northeast from Kotzebue, across the Noatak River and into the rugged Baird Mountains. Our competent pilot lands us right on top of a ridge with commanding views in all directions. Once the pilot leaves, we’re on our own. We’ll hike several miles to the first of many lovely camps. You’ll have the evening to settle into your surroundings, hike up a ridge or just gape at the awe-inspiring scenery.
Heading west from the “Mesa” we decend and cross the first of many creeks along our route. The colorful rocks create colorful creeks and the solitude of these grand mountains is palpable. There will be 2 passes to negotiate on the route and 2 major creek crossings. Your guide will teach you how best to deal with both of these challenges and will help you find the best route through the wilderness.
Hike a short distance to meet our plane at a gravel airstrip on the banks of the Agashashok. Weather permitting we fly back to Kotzebue and change our socks.
Such a joy to spend days where time was meaningless. A wonderful adventure and I would like to return next year for a longer, more challenging trip.
You mentioned to me in an email that you have terrific guides – you do indeed. Dave is a superb guide. He is personable, knowledgeable about the Arctic, and has excellent group management skills. I appreciated the time he spent teaching me to read the map, which is not easy without trails. He allowed Adrian and me to hike at our own pace and he encouraged all of us to explore the area surrounding our campsites. I know the others would concur in my praise.
Transportation beyond Kotzebue
Food while in the wilderness
Stoves, cooking & eating utensils, boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Weather this time of year is often clear and beautiful. Precipitation when it comes is generally light, and it’s fairly easy to keep comfortably dry. Because it’s the arctic, however, snow is always possible and you can expect temperatures to range from the 30s to the 70s. Because the trip is in early spring, mosquitoes should be nearly absent but a bottle of DEET is always prudent.